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What Is The WNBA? History, Teams, Players, Season and Playoffs


The WNBA is the premier professional basketball league for women in North America. In operation since 1997, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) includes 12 teams based in cities across the US. Serving as the women’s counterpart to the NBA, the WNBA season features an All-Star Weekend and a playoff format similar to the men’s league.

  • Founded: 1996
  • First Season: 1997
  • Number of Teams: 12
  • Season Length: May to October
  • Most Championships: Houston Comets, Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm (4 wins each)
  • Commissioner: Cathay Englebert
  • Headquarters: New York City

WNBA History

The WNBA’s charter was approved by the NBA Board of Governors in 1996, with play set to begin the following season. The inaugural 1997 season had eight teams competing and faced competition from the newly-created American Basketball League. Interest in women’s basketball was at an all-time high following Team USA’s gold medal victory at the 1996 Olympics. Two more teams were added in 1998 and then again in 1999, bringing the league up to the current total of 12 teams.

WNBA Teams

There are 12 teams in the WNBA, and they are divided into two conferences. Here is a complete list of WNBA teams by conference:

Eastern Conference

  • Atlanta Dream
  • Chicago Sky
  • Connecticut Sun
  • Indiana Fever
  • New York Liberty
  • Washington Mystics

Western Conference

  • Los Angeles Sparks
  • Minnesota Lynx
  • Phoenix Mercury
  • San Antonio Stars
  • Seattle Storm
  • Tulsa Shock

WNBA Players

Some of the best women’s basketball players have played in the WNBA. Basketball legends Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie, and Sheryl Swoopes were at the press conference announcing the league’s founding, and they were among the biggest stars of the WNBA’s early years.

Some of the best players in the history of the WNBA include Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore, Cynthia Cooper, Lauren Jackson, and Sue Bird. Some current WNBA stars are Breanna Stewart, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, and Sabrina Ionescu.

WNBA Season

The WNBA regular season runs from May through September, with the playoffs finishing in early October. Each team plays 40 games in the regular season, equally split between home and away meetings. There are two weeks of preseason games prior to the regular season, with each team making two appearances. The All-Star Weekend is held in mid-July.

WNBA Playoffs

The WNBA playoffs is an eight-team bracketed tournament. The eight teams with the best records at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs, where they are seeded and slotted into matchups based on their records. The first round is a best-of-three-game series, and the semifinals and WNBA Finals are best-of-five-game series.

The most successful teams in the history of the playoffs are the Houston Comets, Minnesota Lynx, and Seattle Storm, each with four WNBA Finals championships.